SXSW Review: The Disaster Artist
James Franco's latest film The Disaster Artist premiered as a “work-in-progress” at SXSW this past week, the film is an adaptation from the book with the same name written by Greg Sestero. It tells the story of making the best worst cult film The Room created by Tommy Wiseau. The film doesn't poke fun at Wiseau but instead is a satirical homage and ended up received a standing ovation from late night screening.
James Franco directed the film and starred as Tommy Wiseau who wrote, directed and starred in The Room. Tommy meets Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco) in an acting class in the Bay area, they both become a sort of odd couple and very good friends who end up moving to Los Angeles together to further both of their careers in the entertainment industry. Greg, as the bright-eyed and brush-tailed pretty boy, has quite a bit of good luck – getting an agent and being sent out on auditions pretty regularly; while Tommy struggles. If you're unfamiliar, Wiseau is a character to say the least, with his long black hair, pale lanky figure, and insanely odd accent even though he claims he is from New Orleans. The struggle affects him as he can't seem to catch a break so he decides to take matters into his own hands by making himself his own work and writing, directing, starring, and financing his own movie.
An odd idea but from director/actor James Franco it is not surprising from him to go for a cooky concept. Franco, famous for writing books and films that are very odd and, to be honest, not that good. While he is a great actor his tastes for creating projects seem to flop, but that doesn't stop him from continuing to make whatever he wants. It looks as though his hard work paid off because this film is his best yet. Franco shines as Wiseau – the makeup, the voice, the even body gestures are so similar to the original Wiseau that at the end of the film they even have scenes from both films side-by-side for comparison and it is pretty wild how similar they are. One could argue, and it was even mentioned at the Q&A after the screening (with Seth Rogen, and both Franco's) that this could be Franco's award-winning performance. Dave Franco was also incredibly believable as the gullibly frustrated Greg, easily succumbed to Wiseau's weird demeanor. Greg falls for Tommy's alternative take on a Streetcar Named Desire scene in acting class but then later realizes sometimes Tommy's alternative takes are just not good.
The movie holds an impressive tone of showing the story without poking fun at Wiseau, instead it highlights his earnestness. Sure, Wiseau did not make the best movie but he made one and it was all him – writing, directing, producing. It also shows the tight bond Greg and Tommy has. When The Room premieres to an audience literally laughing at the film, Tommy gets upset but Greg consoles him and tells him that the audience is having fun and laughing because of his movie.
An oddly heartfelt film with a slew of laughs and sweet moments, The Disaster Artist is a very impressive moviemaking biopic, compared to the likes of Ed Wood, even if you haven't seen The Room you are still in for a good time.